100. Memorandum From Secretary of State Haig to President Reagan 1


  • Release of Soviet Dissidents

The CSCE meeting in Madrid could conclude this fall, if we can reach agreement on the mandate for a conference on military confidence-building measures in Europe (CDE), balanced by human rights provisions that go beyond the Helsinki Final Act of 1975. This gives us an opportunity to try to get some people out of the USSR. Specifically, we should seek release of Shcharanskiy, the jailed Jewish dissident and Helsinki monitor, whose wife you met, and Sakharov, the exiled physicist who has been critical of the Soviet regime. If this proves impossible, we could settle for one or the other, or a larger number of lesser-known dissidents.

The incentive for the Soviets to agree to this is that we, in turn, would reduce somewhat our demands for language on human rights in the concluding document at Madrid. We would thus achieve “balance”: in part by the significant political—and humanitarian—symbolism of getting people released. We would meet Congressional concerns that we won’t get enough out of Madrid on human rights, and we would demonstrate that the Administration’s approach to human rights produces more results than rhetoric.

I will raise this initially with Ambassador Dobrynin; then, if the Soviets agree to talk, Ambassador Max Kampelman will pursue it with his Soviet counterpart in Madrid. The discussions would be kept totally secret. While we will resist any Soviet effort to get a quid pro quo beyond the CSCE context, we will tell them that this gesture would improve the tone of our relationship.

This is a long shot, but well worth trying. I will of course keep you informed of any developments.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC: Country File, USSR (11/6/1981–11/6/1981). Secret.